MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY : CHAPTER – 4

Managing The Marketing Communications Process (II)
Brand Management :
1.

What BRAND means : A brand is an identification, a certain image, a feeling or impression of a thing, an object, a person, an organisation, etc. This is the result of a perception resulting from some “experience with” and “information about” a company or a line of products. Some experts say that the brand resides in the heads and hearts of the persons, and thus the MC is all about how to create, deliver, manage and evaluate the “Brand Messages” i.e., all the information and experiences that impact how customers and other stakeholders perceive a brand.
a.

Definition : According to "Interbrand", one of the top brand consulting firms in the world, a brand is the mixture of tangible and intangible attributes symbolised in a trademark, which if properly managed creates influence and generates value. A perception can be influenced thro’ positive and negative communication experiences but not controlled. Characteristics of a Brand : A brand differentiates the product from its competitors and makes a promise to the customers. The product attributes remaining the same one brand has more market share than another is because of the difference in perception of its brand in the minds of the people. Branding : This is the process of creating brand image that engages the hearts and minds of the customers. And this is precisely what separates similar products from one another. Logos : These are distinctive graphic design used to communicate a product, company, or organisation identity. Customers and prospects are influenced by a wide variety of messages that are sent by both the tangible and the intangible attributes of a product. Tangible attributes can be design, performance, ingredients /components, size, shape, price, etc., which can be observed, felt, touched, and known. But the importance lies with the intangible attributes, which are the primary responsibility of a marketer. These can be image, perceived value, memories, experiences, and impressions, etc. Brands live in Heads and Hearts of the Customers : Although a company may own a brand name and logo, and greatly influence what people think about its brands, the actual brand meaning that influences behaviour resides in the heads and hearts of the customers and other stakeholders. It’s important to note that brands operate at different levels and have different meanings at different stages in the distribution chain along which products move from manufacturers to end users, and with different customers. Brand Experiences : Ultimately, the meaning of the brand is based on the customers’ experience with the brand, either positive or negative. This can come from all the message sources, thro’ all the media, regarding all the attributes of a brand, product or company. It has been estimated that most of the customers switch brands NOT because of product or performance attributes, BUT because of a response to customer service and other aspects of the brand experience that customers believe are less than satisfactory. Customer experience is very important for brand building. Brands are “lived” and adapted by each customer according to his own individual expectations and experience with them. Positive 1

b.

c.

d.

e.

f.

brand experiences are created by relevance and by offering value thro’ the brand relationship.
g.

Brands transform products : A basic principle is that a brand transforms goods / services into something larger than themselves. A powerful brand is not just a product, but something more than that, and for this “more” customers “don’t mind to” or “gladly” pay a premium. Thus a brand and what it represents can affect what people are willing to pay. Branding has such powerful impact on consumer perception that retailers rather than relying solely on manufacturers’ brands (Name brand), have created their own brands (Store / House brand or Private label), which is used exclusively by one chain of stores for a line of products made to the chain’s specifications. Brands make promises and set expectations : In terms of consumer purchase, the essence of brand is a promise. The promise sets expectations for what a person considers likely to occur when using a product. Some experts say that a brand is also a contract, albeit a virtual one, between a company and a customer. Information and knowledge about what a brand stands for and past experience with the brand allow customers to make a quick and easy decision. That’s what a promise is – you know what to expect. Consistency is critical to the establishment of a brand promise. A clear and compelling brand promise consistently communicated at all points of touch is the principal benefit of branding. Of course, promises mean little if the product fails to meet expectations. MC has been used for years to make promises in order to generate sales. But often companies fail because they make promises that they can’t keep. This can happen for two reasons : i. ii. By making unrealistic promises : The first is that expectations are raised too high, usually in an overzealous advertising. By not matching the promises with the delivery : The second is that products or supporting services are defective.

h.

Companies must constantly monitor customer expectations and product performance to make sure there’s no gap between them or there is a positive gap, where the customer is delighted. But when a negative gap exists, either the brand promises need to be restrained, or the managers responsible for product performance need to be made aware that their products are not meeting expectations and they must take some remedial measures.

How Brands Are Created and Maintained :
Building a successful brand, whether for a company or a new product, requires strategic planning and a major investment. There are three basic steps that are discussed. Once the company has more than one brand, it then needs a system for managing how they interrelate amongst themselves :
1.

Selecting the Desired Brand Position : There must be a clear-cut policy of the company, on the basis of its business objectives, as to what should be its target audience. Brand position is the standing of a brand in comparison with its competitors in the minds of customers, prospects and other stakeholders. According to AL Ries, who had developed the positioning concept, customers who’re aware of several brands in a product category automatically compare and rank those brands on the basis of the differences they perceive amongst them. Although brand positions, like brands themselves, live in the minds and hearts of customers, a company’s MC can greatly influence how customers perceive a brand in relation to competition. The real challenge is to select a position that can be realistically 2

supported by the product, the company, and the MC, and that can be appreciated by customers and prospects.
a.

Positioning Strategies : A positioning strategy is generally based on one of several variables like Category, Image, Unique Product Feature, Benefit, etc. According to Michael Porter, there are three basic positioning alternatives, like (1) as a product / service differentiator, (2) as a low cost leader, and (3) as a niche market offerer. He suggested that the marketer should be specialist for a few strategies rather than a generalist for several strategies. The strategies can be based on several factors as : They are discussed in details in the following : i. Category Positioning : This type of positioning is possible anytime a brand defines, creates, or owns a category. Here the positioning is done as a leader of a particular category, so that it becomes synonymous with that service, like Xerox means photocopying, Essel Word means family holiday entertainment, etc. Similar to category positioning is Pre-emptive positioning. This is the brand positioning based on a generic feature that competitions have not talked about. The Pre-emptive positioning is often used by commodity products, i.e. the goods and services that have very minor or no distinguishing differences. Image Positioning : This type of positioning differentiates on the basis of created association. It is similar to the pre-emptive positioning that any brand can attempt to create a differentiating image for itself. These attempts are often not successful because the image is not realistic, not creatively constructed or not used long enough to actually build up an association between the brand and the desired image.

b.

ii.

iii. Unique Product Features Positioning : This type of positioning is based on an element that is unique to the product or company. Product features are tangible and intangible attributes of goods or services and they provide a basis for positioning. This is also known as Attribute Positioning which is based on a single attribute or feature of a product / service, like Malayala Manorama- no.1 in circulation, Allahabad Bank- the oldest bank, etc. iv. Benefit Positioning : This type of positioning is based on benefits, advantages that allow a product to satisfy customers’ needs, wants, and desires like some new generation private banks offering ATMs and internet banking, etc. Most benefits are experimental, functional or symbolic, any of which can be the basis of brand positioning. Symbolic benefits such as belonging to a certain country club make people feel a certain way thro’ achievements, associations, or attitude. v. Use/Application Positioning : Positioning as the best for a particular service application, like SBI offering education loans, etc. vi. User Positioning : Based on the requirements of some specific target groups, like India positioning itself as the destination of tourists seeking inner peace of mind, etc. vii. Competitor Positioning : This service is positioned primarily against a particular competitor, like IIPM positioning itself against IIMs – dare to think beyond IIMs. viii. Quality/Price Positioning : On the basis of quality standard at a particular price, like Oberoi hotels offer high class service at a high price range, other 3

budget hotels offering decent minimum comfortable stay and service with all modern amenities (but not luxury) for affordable prices, etc.
c.

Marketers should be careful about their positioning strategies to prevent certain situations : i. ii. Some brands are over-positioned when the segment is too narrow for the offer and many potential customers fail to notice, Some brands are under-positioned when the customers fail to notice any distinctive edge,

iii. Some brands communicate conflicting features / benefits to create a confusion, iv. Some brands offer irrelevant or redundant features / benefits, v. Some brands offer promises which the customer doubt whether the marketer can deliver.
d.

Managing a Brand’s Position : Marketing Managers may develop high sounding positioning statements. But they don’t mean anything if they are not captured in the customers’ minds. To determine how customers perceive a brand and its competitors, the marketers do a sample study known as perceptual mapping, which is a visualisation technique that indicates how customers perceive competing brands in terms of various criteria. These maps indicate how a sample of customers rank each brand from low to high, on a handful of selected criteria, like performance, quality, style, price, features, etc. Numerical rankings for each criterion are averaged and plotted. This map enables brand managers to quickly see how theirs brands compare, in the minds of consumers, with competing brands. Repositioning a Brand : Sometimes the brands need to be repositioned. Because their original position no longer fits the modern day culture or requirements. Repositioning may also be used when a brand extends its product and line and needs to redefine itself in terms of its new goods and services.

e.

2.

Developing Brand Identification : The brand name and symbol chosen to represent a brand need to reflect the position of a brand, and they must work as identification cues. Names and brand symbols are what customers look for when they shop, whether in stores, in catalogues, on the Internet, or in the case of B2B products, at trade shows and exhibits. The more memorable, relevant or catchy the brand name and symbols are, the faster and less expensive it becomes to reach to the minds of customers, and create awareness of the brand. Making it easy to find and repurchase a brand is an important factor in customer relation. Thus the more specific and less ambiguous brand identity cues are, the more they help customers save time looking for a product, which adds value to the brand.
a.

Brand Names : So, now what name to choose ? In general we ask often what’s in a name . Or we say, call a rose by any name, it will smell as sweet. But in the case of brands it does matter. Choosing a brand name is more art than science. Often it is the result of extensive and continuous research. Catchy or attractive names linger in the hearts and minds of the buyer. Sometimes the specific meaning of the names create an image in the minds of the customers. Successful brand names share several characteristics that help make them memorable. A good brand name usually communicates one or more of the following characteristics :

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i. ii.

Benefit : The name directly suggests some benefit, like Heads and Shoulders, Itch-Guard. Association : The names directly convey the association of two or more entities, which may be companies, categories, themes, etc. like H-P.

iii. Distinctiveness : The important theme is distinctiveness and it may be simple, but may be unrelated to the product, like Apple (Computers), Monster.com (Jobs), etc. iv. Simplicity : The names should be simple and short to spell and pronounce, or it should be phonetically easy for all. In today’s world most of the good and big companies go multinational, and names should not be awkward (or meaning awkward) for a particular linguist or ethnic group. Ex., recent case of a hotel in Mumbai named Hitler.
b.

Brand Symbols : We live in a visual world, or more precisely audio-visual world. So having a distinctive or unique symbol for a brand greatly increases the identification and recognition of a brand. In the realm of products and companies, a distinctive logo is used to indicate a product’s source of ownership. i. Trademark : The literal meaning of trademark is the mark of a trade. A trademark is, similar to but broader than a logo, is an element, word or design that differentiates one brand from another. Some of the earlier trademarks were only initials of the owners or other identification symbols or letters. A company has exclusive use of a trademark by using it first and consistently, and registering it with a govt. agency. Logos : Brand Logos usually are enduring symbols, but they may change as the brand matures. Ex. The Tata Company has changed the logo a few years ago. In order for logos and trademarks to do their job, they should be distinctive, simple and consistent with the desired image and positioning of the brand.

ii.

3.

Creating the Brand Image : Giving a brand an identity and a position is not enough to make the brand alive and connect with the customers. Just like the names and physical traits of persons are not enough to make someone remember them. So it needs an impression, an image in the minds of those who can remember. Thus the brand image is an impression or an image created by the brand messages, interactions and experiences. These attributes are assimilated into a perception or image or impression of the brand. Whenever that image is encountered it makes a statement a brand’s personality and specialities. An image adds value to the brand because it can communicate something about the buyer to other people. Experts say that the product one wears, drives, or subscribes to can tell (communicate) others what one thinks important, and about one’s personality. Managing the Brand Internationally : In the early 1980s, when Theodre Levitt published an article regarding the adoption of standardised strategies by the international marketers, it became a central issue in the marketing circle. On the other hand studies showed that the standardisation process could have problems in adapting to different groups on the basis of cultural, religious, linguistic, geographical, demographical, economical, political parameters. But in spite of that marketers worked in this direction and we have today a lot of success in better control in penetration of brand’s image, as well as benefiting from the cost effectiveness of a single campaign. It has happened so, because the world has shrunk towards a more homogeneous, become more nearly a single marketplace. However, the differences still remain to some extent. Studies show that even if the 5

4.

people buy the same products; they don’t necessarily buy for the same reasons. International marketers are faced with the challenge of taking advantage of new communication technology to reach millions of people quickly and effectively while ensuring that they are not sacrificing their desired brand image.
a.

To Standardise or to Localise : Standardisation and Localisation are the two primary MC strategies use in international Marketing Communications. A Standardisation Strategy, also called global strategy is an international MC strategy in which the same basic brand message is used in all the countries. A Localisation strategy is an international MC strategy in which brand messages are customised to make them compatible with the country’s culture and local needs and wants. Often the marketers strike a balance between the two extremes of Standardisation and Localisation, like “Think Globally and Act Locally”. The MNC brands face a problem of resentment of local offices for being asked/forced to follow the global campaign. This can be tackled by adopting a global strategy, which is flexible enough to be locally executed. Or the best is the combination or a two-tier MCS, like the global Head Quarters formulating broad policies and guidelines concerning the brand, and a regional or country offices execute these strategies according to their best within the norms. This leads to the combined advantages of the two strategies – consistent brand image development and successful communication accommodating cultural differences. The Language Factor : Any sort of localisation requires the language of the MC be translated to the local language where the MC materials are to be used. There is some inherent problem in translation of one language into another because of inconsistencies. Sometimes this provides an opportunity to use images, pictures, sound in addition to make it more comprehensible. Online businesses have options of various languages, so that the customers can choose their language. Maintaining Global Brand Consistency : Planning a message strategy for an international brand is a complex one and goes beyond the decision of globalisation or localisation. The imagery and logo of a brand are easy to standardise, and the language to some extent. But the background, the models, the settings and other environment of the message are very difficult to standardise. The following is a list of areas where the difficulties are encountered. Product Category, Product Life Cycle, Objectives, Targeting, Positioning, Branding, Creative Strategy, Advertising Message, Production, Media, Media Availability, Research. The general principle seems to be that it isn’t a question of “Think globally” or “Think locally”, but rather “Think Globally and Act Locally”. Companies wishing to launch global marketing campaigns must still play in the local arena of local media, govt. regulations, wide cultural differences, and ever changing stages of economic and demographic development. Although, many of the world’s economic and cultural barriers have fallen in recent years, international companies can’t ignore the remaining barriers, if they hope to reach their customers on a global scale.

b.

c.

[ Note : Also visit the article “Effective Brand Building” by the same author in scribd.com ]

Organisation and use of HRM to achieve Strategies (internal marketing) :
One of the primary responsibilities for marketing departments is to interpret the needs of the customers and the market place and bring that information to all departments. To complete this task, marketing needs input from the very people, employees, it is working to motivate and keep informed. Managing this two way flow of information is an important objective of internal marketing. 6

1.

Definition : Internal Marketing is an on going effort to involve employees in the planning process and then communicate the finalised plan back to them to get their buy-in and support. Employees as Internal Customers : Employees, especially those “touching the customer”, should be thought of as customers- and, in fact, employees are often customers, too. The more employees are informed and made to feel a part of the company’s effort to build customer relationship, the more they will satisfy customers. Companies can increase morale and productivity by keeping employees informed so they are not embarrassed when asked about certain programmes. Also giving employees a glimpse of preview of advertising and promotional materials before they are launched makes them feel that they really are the members of the “Team”. Employee Loyalty : Internal marketing can also enhance employee loyalty. Reducing employee turnover means lower training costs and an overall increase in experience throughout the company. A study has found that it is possible to generate commitment among employees with good communication, opportunities, for personal growth, and work place flexibility. Most important, however, IM can help create internal understanding of, and respect for, the company’s core values, which are the essence of its brands. Like external marketing, internal marketing depends on communication and problems arise when employees are not kept informed. There are three basic aspects IM communication : Informing Employees : Studies show that inadequate inter-departmental communication is the biggest problem behind poor customer service. As the company uses different MC functions to reach external customers, it should also use various messages and channels to reach its employees. On the other hand the employees have their preferred method of receiving messages. For this, good IM makes use of company intranets, newsletters, e-mails, voice mails, bulletin boards, and face-to-face meetings with employees.
a.

2.

3.

4.

An intranet is a computer network that is accessible only to employees and contains proprietary information. Intranets facilitates communication (e-mail, messaging), collaboration (shared databases, conferencing), and the coordination of work-flow. An extranet is a limited access website that links suppliers, distributors, and MC agencies to the company. Extranets are another valuable “internal” communication channel as they help keep outside MC agencies informed.

b.

5.

Empowering Employees : Since IM provides employees with information, it enhances employee empowerment, which means giving employees the resources to make decisions about problems that effect customer relationships. Generally, the more information these employees have, the better the decisions they will make. Empowerment programmes must be supported by training and information about company policies, which is a communication challenge. A support programme with the objective of creating empowered and responsive employees has these goals :
a. b. c. d.

To inform employees about their role in company’s success. To reward employees on the basis of their individual performance and the company’s overall performance. To inform employees about their role in satisfying customers. To listen to employees when they have ideas about how to better serve customers- even when the ideas involve other areas of operations.

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e. 6.

To give employees easy access to customer information files and other databases that enable them to make quick and knowledgeable responses.

Listening to Employees : Like external marketing, IM depends on two-way communication. If company messages are going to have integrity, internal marketing must encourage and facilitates employee feedback which will let managers know whether employees understand and agree with the internal marketing messages and are willing to support the various MC programmes. A justified criticism of some MC plans is that they are made in corporate office “Ivory Towers”. Such plans don’t address the real problems and opportunities in the market place.
a.

Source of Customer Information : Customers-contact employees can be a valuable source of competitive and product performance information. These employees vary from industry to industry. In some industries such as office machines and automobiles, service personnel are the employees most likely to have on going contact with customers. The employees who deliver grocery products are often the first to be aware of a product or MC problem or other customer concerns. The IM that facilitates employee input about customer needs can improve MC planning.

Commissioning and Contracting External Resources :
1.

Who are the IMC Partners : The basic players in MC are (1) MC Agency, (2) the Media, and (3) the company and brands behind the MC, which include non-profit organisations, govt. bodies and all other entities that have something to sell. To tell customers about their products services, and causes, most companies hire marketing communication (MC) agencies to create and place brand messages in the media. Because the lion’s share of the revenue earned by most media comes from advertising, the media couldn’t exist without advertising. But the media can sell advertising only if they have significant no.s of readers, listeners, or viewers- the more they have, the more they can charge. Clearly, companies, agencies, and media are interdependent, co-existing in what is sometimes called marketing golden triangle. How is the Agency World Organised? : MC used be dominated by ad agencies, but that has changed as other MC functions have become more widely used. Clients are looking for new ways to communicate because “the audience easily dismisses most of the messages they see or hear”. This need for more effective ways to reach customers has prompted traditional ad agency to acquire other MC agencies and offer more types of marketing communication services. How do the Agencies Work? : The most common types of agencies are those that specialise in mass media advertising, public relations, direct marketing, sales promotions, and packaging or display of corporate identity. Most MC agencies have 20-40 clients (called accounts). To avoid conflicts of interest, most agencies handle only one company in a particular product category. Many large corporations not only work with a variety of MC agencies but also, when they budget is very large, use two or more agencies within a speciality area such as advertising. In these cases, the competing agencies handle different brands, product lines, or geographical reasons. Although every agency has its own unique organisation, job titles, and department, there are commonalities among agencies. Some provide a full range of services to clients; others specialise in certain types of work. The single largest no. and type of MC agencies, especially in terms of MC expenses handled, are advertising agencies. How does Client-Agency Relationship work? : Agencies are compensated in various ways like fees, commissions retainers, mark-ups, etc. The selection of one or more of 8

2.

3.

4.

these depends on the type of MC agency, media, client and the MC Mix. These are given below :
a.

Commissions : This is the traditional method and also is the simplest, where the agency gets a specified amount of commission ( 16.67%, 15%, 12.5%, 10%. 8.33%, etc.) of the media cost where the agency proposes to put up the ad. Today since the media cost has increased the commission percentage has come down. i. Disadvantages : There is a tendency to suggest costlier media for the same amount of the job to increase the commission. In times of media cost inflation the agency is disproportionately rewarded. This encourages agencies to ignore cost accounting methods to justify the expenses attributable to a particular account. Advantages : Simple and easy to administer. Agency does some extra jobs that are required at no extra cost. It is flexible. The emphasis is on the nonprice factors like quality of the ad message developed.

ii.

b.

Fees and Retainers : This structure is more or less rationalised and is calculated on the basis of the amount of service rendered multiplied by unit rate as agreed mutually. And the commission received from the media may be credited to the client. An annual retainer is an arrangement in which a client contracts to work with an agency for a specified period of time and pay that agency a certain amount. Mark-ups / Cost-Plus / Percentage Method : In this method the client agrees to pay the agency an amount based on the actual cost of its work plus some agreed on profit margin say a fixed percentage of the cost. This requires that the account should be kept in details and accurately. This can cover the direct and indirect or overhead cost. Performance / Incentive Based Compensation : These methods are manly of performance based compensation system where the clients demand some accountability, and reward the agency accordingly. This can be w.r.t. the result, target achievement, quality of the creative work, increase in market share, and the commission earned from the media, and other objective and subjective parameters. General Observation : In general compensation is an area that is going thro’ a great deal of change, and agency-client contracts are as individualised as the products they promote. Thus there’s no longer only a single way to compensate agencies. Today, there are as many methods of compensation as the clients the individual agencies keep. Because each client is unique in their MC needs and media spending.

c.

d.

e.

5.

Agency Evaluation : Just like the company evaluates its employees, officers, suppliers, trans-porters, etc, so also the agencies must be evaluated periodically. There are two basic type of evaluations :
a.

Quantitative Evaluation : For agencies that are paid a fee, a client can do a quantitative audit of an agency’s records to determine whether the working hours and the expenses are billed correctly. Qualitative Evaluation : In this, the employees who have frequent contact with the agency, rate the agency in areas of certain qualitative parameters like response, clarity, meeting deadlines, initiative, achieving target, new ideas,

b.

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creativity, negotiability, etc. If the MC budget is big, then the evaluation can be extensive, covering every department of the agency, and can be more frequent.
c.

Benefits of Evaluation : There are several of then as given below : i. ii. They help a company determine whether it is getting its money’s worth. Most people like to get some feedback, be it negative. They welcome it as long as it is objective and constructive, so that they can improve their performance.

iii. Most agencies like to be evaluated objectively, and given a chance to improve than to be fired at random. iv. The primary purpose is not to fire the agency, but to critically assess the relationship and to make it fruitful to both the parties, or can work better together.
6.

Why Agencies lose Clients : The following are some of the reasons why agencies lose clients :
a. b.

Poor Performance or Service : The client is dissatisfied with the quality of advertising and/or services provided by the agency. Poor Communication : The client and agency personnel fail to develop and maintain the level of communications necessary to sustain a favourable working relationship. Unrealistic Demand by the Client : The client demands and expects from the agency something which exceeds the amount of compensation received and thereby reducing the account’s profitability. Personality Conflict : People working on the account on both client and agency side don’t have sufficient rapport to work well together. Personnel Changes : Any change in personnel at either the agency’s or client’s side may cause problems. New managers may like to engage agencies with which they have already an established tie. Agency personnel often try to take accounts along when they switch jobs. Changes in size of the client or agency : The client may outgrow the agency or decides to engage a larger agency to handle its business. If the agency grows too big, then the client may represent too small a part of business to attract attention. Conflicts of Interest : In case of mergers and acquisitions (MandA) trouble arises. If the agency is merged or the client is merged there is a conflict. The normal practice is not to handle two accounts of the same product category. Changes in the Client’s Corporate and / or MC Strategy : The client may at any time change the whole marketing or MC strategy and decide to change the agency for the new programme. Now more and more companies are going for IMC strategy.

c.

d. e.

f.

g.

h.

© Himansu S M / Written Oct-2006, Published Feb-2010

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